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Students bring history alive with history projects

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – History came alive Saturday, March 7, at UW-Green Bay thanks to the creativity of more than 200 students, at the 18th Northeastern Wisconsin Region’s National History Day (NHD) competition.

“It doesn’t really matter how you might do on academics,” said event coordinator Deb Anderson. “Meaning NHD takes you out of the realm, out of that classroom setting and it allows you to achieve in what matters to you. You can do a project you are passionate about, and you can present that project in a way that harnesses your skills.”

Anderson said when NHD started, the event was held in one room and consisted of maybe 40 total projects.

Now it spans two buildings, has 160 projects and attracts hundreds of students from 18 schools.

NHD gave students in grades six through 12 the opportunity to research topics throughout the year related to this year’s theme – Breaking Barriers in History.

Students developed projects based on the theme in one of five categories: video documentaries, exhibits, historical papers, dramatic performances and websites.

“We put a lot of work into our project, so it was nice seeing the judges reaction toward it,” said Southwest High School freshman Grace Zhang.

Zhang, together with Ella Bonnie and Tyler Roscoe, began work on their senior division group exhibit on the measles vaccine in the fall.

“It’s a great program,” said Gerome Allen, Bay View Middle School social studies teacher and NHD advisor. “There is so much good students get out of it – with time management, becoming better writers, and if they are in a group, they work on their collaboration skills. And as a teacher, it’s super exciting to see students really work hard, really put in the time and have success and be recognized for their success. That is a really rewarding experience for a teacher.”

Anderson said one of the unique aspects is students have to use primary sources.

“So they have to use original materials of some kinds,” said Anderson, coordinator of the university’s archives. “So that is how the archives department becomes involved, because obviously we are housing those materials.”

She said some of the schools in NHD visit the university in fall for a research field trip.

“They are getting access to college-level books and databases,” Anderson said. “Some of them, depending on their topic, end up in the archives and they are touching and holding an 1861 Civil War diary, they are looking at records that pertain to the Milwaukee Brewers, first hand accounts of what is means to be an immigrant. So they are using original materials of some kind.”

Several of this year’s entries had ties to Northeast Wisconsin, including projects about Houdini, William Hoy, a hearing-impaired baseball player from Oshkosh credited with developing hand signals used by umpires, and Walleye Wars.

“I think it (the NHD competition) keeps history alive,” Allen said. “I get the sense sometimes that people look at social studies as the least important core subject, it’s maybe not seen as important with state testing as reading and math. So I think it’s really a cool experience to keep history alive.”

The day ended with an award ceremony where regional winners were announced. Winners will compete at the state competition at UW-Madison April 18.

Winners from Greater Green Bay schools include:

Junior Division Individual Documentary

• Cole Welnetz, from Bay View Middle School, second alternate for his documentary on D-Day.

• Collin Marquardt, from Bay View, third alternate for his documentary on Oskar Schindler and his role in the Holocaust.

Junior Division Group Documentary

• Addison Aird and Mason Geurts, from Bay View Middle School, finalist for their documentary “Women Airforce Service Pilots: Breaking Barriers in Military Aviation.”

• Sophia O’Leary, Katelyn VanLanen and Sylvia VanDenPlas, from Bay View, finalist for their documentary “Lisa Meitner: Breaker of Barriers and Mother of Nuclear Fission.”

Junior Division Individual Performance

• Leeza Leisner, from Bay View, finalist for her individual performance “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Breaking Barriers for Equality.”

Junior Group Exhibit

• Elianna Matuszewski and Madeline Thoreson, from Bay View, finalist for their exhibit “The San Francisco 504 Sit In: A Breakthrough in the Disability Movement.”

• Madeline Johnson and Murphi Specht, from Bay View, second alternate for their exhibit on Florence Nightingale.
Senior Group Documentary

• Eliot Algrem and Kendall Hoida, from Southwest High School, finalist for their documentary “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Nina Simone and the Civil Rights Movement.”

• Edestein Dahlin, Annebelle Rose Dennis, Kayla Fuller and Jasmine Lohman, from Southwest, finalist for their documentary “The History of Gay Segregation.”

• Billy Bartle, Greta Hansen, Janelle Novotny and Philip Wojcik, from Southwest, first alternative for their documentary “Hank Aaron: Beating the Babe.”

Senior Group Exhibit

• Hannah Bauer and Melanie Shefchik, from West De Pere High School, finalist for their exhibit “Man’s Best Friend: The 1925 Serum Run.”

• Bonnie, Roscoe and Zhang, from Southwest, second alternate for their exhibit on the measles vaccine.

• Sierra Bellue, Mallory Kerhin, Ella Siegle and Croix Zacharias, from Southwest, third alternate for their exhibit “Henrietta Lacks: The Facts.”

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